Latitudes Newsletter Jan 2017



January 2017



A Very Happy New Year to Everyone!



Thursday, January 12, 2017 – 7 PM – Madison Bldg – LoC:  Our first meeting of the year will be a bit early in the month to prevent complications arising from the Presidential Inauguration. That will occur on January 20, 2017. Security measures will be increasingly tight before the event and may well restrict movement on Capitol Hill the previous day. Since we meet at the Library of Congress on the Hill, it seemed the wisest thing to do.
The January 2017 meeting will be a Members Map Night (MMN), a form of cartographic Show and Tell for Grown-Ups. These are always interesting, since you never know what will turn up. As of this date there are still several spaces open.  We need a few more members (or friends of members) to put forth a bit of extra effort and show us one of your favorite toys.  If you have never given a talk to WMS before and have been thinking about doing so, this is a good way to ease into it. Presenters will be asked to talk about their item for 3-5 minutes. To keep this from being entirely chaotic, persons interested in displaying their maps should contact Program Chair Eliane Dotson (Eliane(at) to get on the docket. [Please note that your show-and-tell item must fit through the security x-ray machine at the LOC - many framed items may be too big.]



Thursday, February 16, 2017 – 7 PM – Madison Bldg – LoC:  Dr. Sven Fuhrmann, Department of Geography and Geoinformation Science, George Mason University, will give a talk on How to Fold a Map. (Ed. Note:  I have no idea what that means either. Come and find out.) The year 2016 was designated the International Map Year, a worldwide recognition of maps, mapping products and their roles and uses. While the history and achievements of mapping products were certainly celebrated; the International Map Year also encouraged exploring new challenges and opportunities to further develop spatial visualization techniques and products. Dr. Fuhrmann has been involved in such development for the past 15 years and has significantly shaped cartography and geovisualization research. His presentation will reflect on past geovisualization challenges and achievements and highlight research in virtual and augmented realities.
(Note:  The date published in the last Latitudes was incorrect.  This is the correct day and date.)




Saturday, March 18, 2017 – 10 AM – National Museum of the American Indian:  The Society will meet at the museum (4th St & Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20560) to learn how maps are integrated within an exhibit environment. The tour will be led by Daniel Cole, who has served as the Research Cartographer for the Smithsonian since 1986 and as the Institution's GIS Coordinator since 1990. The field trip will visit two exhibits with discussions about the maps involved in each: "The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire" and "Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations." The tour will last approximately 1.5 hours.




On December 8, 2016, Dr. Shelley Mastran, PhD Geography, Chair of the Board for the Reston Historic Trust and Museum, gave her talk on the founding and growth of early roads and settlements in Northern Virginia (NoVa). The presentation traced the evolution of European settlement in Northern Virginia with a focus on Fairfax County. Not surprisingly, these patterns dictated the routes which linked them, and many are still reflected in NoVa’s current pattern of roads and highways. 
Some of the major thoroughfares used today were laid down several centuries ago. Travel was easiest by water, so landings grew up in necessary locations.  The farms were placed where there was water and arable or clearable land. They were largely self-sufficient; the most common need to travel was to church or to a mill for their crops. They also needed to be able to take cash crops to market. Hence there were roads to link these places, and they still bear the names of mills, churches, and crossings, many long since vanished. Foremost among the crops was tobacco, which was moved in huge “hogshead” barrels which rolled behind oxen or horses. An unusually wide road needed to move hogsheads was a “rolling road,” which remains a common road name today. Once instructed, it is quite easy to look at map of NoVa and see the roads and settlements of centuries past reflected in it.
There was an odd bit of confusing humor when Dr. Mastran described the boundaries of an area of Fairfax County known as Tysons Corners (soon to be just Tysons).  You know that part of Chain Ridge Road where the Toilet Bowl Building is? she asked. Many in the audience laughed and others looked bewildered. Most from NoVa are familiar with this landmark;
click here and you will understand the name. It is also sometimes called The Stargate.




The 24th Annual Miami Map Fair (MMF) will be held in its usual digs, i.e., the HistoryMiami Museum. Many of the leading dealers from Europe and North America will be present.  The speakers and panelists are Dr. James Utley, Dr. Nick Kanas, Dr. Ronald E. Grim, Dr. Stephen Hornsby and the panel moderator is antiquarian and pictorial map dealer, Elisabeth Burdon. The subjects are the History of Celestial Cartography, 20th Century Pictorial Maps and the Secret and Personal Provenance of Maps. There are special events on Friday (February 3) for dealers and full access ticket holders only. Public admission and presentations are on February 4 and 5. For details, click here.




The late Alan Voorhees was a longtime member of WMS and a generous supporter of the map collection at the Library of Virginia. The map room at LVA was endowed by the Voorhees, and this annual lecture series was founded in their honor. Many WMS members attend each year.  It is sponsored by the Fry-Jefferson Society, the support group for the map collection. The venue, as always, will be the Library of Virginia, 800 E. Broad Street, Richmond, VA. Time is not yet known; watch their website here, or contact Cassandra Farrell at cassandra.farrell(at)
This year the event will focus on early Richmond. The speakers:
Marianne McKee – From Survey to Settlement: Maps of the City of Richmond, Virginia
Lyle Browning – LVA Maps & Archaeology: Going From The Known To Find The Unknown Or The Lost, The Forgotten, The Misbegotten
Leslie Courtois – Conservation of Richard Young’s Manuscript Maps of Richmond






We had a major article on this in the previous Latitudes, and since then the latest Portolan has arrived with a feature article containing even greater detail. We will not repeat that here, except to say that if you intend to attend, please start now to make your plans. The registration, air and hotel reservations, visa application, etc. are best done well when they are not done quickly. Also, the reduced registrations fees are in effect only until 28 February 2017. Go to




Most of our members reside outside of the District of Columbia area and cannot attend our monthly meetings, thus cannot enjoy the incredible speakers at the WMS monthly meetings.  As an added benefit to your WMS membership, we now record meetings and make them available through the society's website,, also an included membership benefit.  To view the videos, you must be logged on to the WMS website and go to the link at the top of the page that says "New! Meeting Videos." Click here for a direct link to the videos page.  Here are the videos that are currently available:

October Meeting: Kimball Brace, President of Election Data Services, presents Red vs Blue, a History of Political Mapping and the Use of Color

November Meeting: P.J. Mode, a long-time student and collector of maps, presents Maps and Messages: Deconstructing Persuasive Cartography

December Meeting: Dr. Shelley S. Mastran, Chair of the Board for the Reston Historic Trust and Museum, presents Early Roads and Settlements in Northern Virginia: A Cartographic Perspective

We will continue to post meeting videos of upcoming speakers, so do check back again for more videos. Also, please note that this is our first foray into video recording; the videos are not perfect and we are still learning the best way to adjust the lighting, the angle of the camera, the audio system, etc. Despite these imperfections, we think you will find the videos very enjoyable and certainly full of information.

** If you have never logged on to the WMS website, it is very easy to join the site and it is one of the great benefits of your WMS membership. To create a login,
click here and then click on your name and follow the prompts.




This is a statistical profile of the WMS membership based on our membership data base as of 3 November 2016. As of that date, we had 393 members. Of these, 343 were individuals and 50 were institutions. This first part will take a closer look at the 343 persons, and the 50 institutions will be examined in Part Two (presumably next month but one never knows).
A total of 140 members reside in the District of Columbia and the states of Virginia and Maryland. The single greatest number nation-wide is 79 in Virginia. (WMS was started in Alexandria, VA, in 1979 but it moved to the new Madison Building on Capitol Hill the following year, so that’s probably just coincidence.) Maryland is home to 40 members and the District to another 21. This means that just 40% of our members reside in the District, Virginia, or Maryland. Many of those are not in the metropolitan area; for example, 25 Virginians – nearly a third – are located well outside it.
Seven additional states account for another 103 members: New York (23), California (22), Florida (16), Illinois (13), Massachusetts (10), Pennsylvania (10), and Texas (9). It’s hardly a surprising pattern, since six of the seven are the six most populace states of the Union. Another factor may be that all but one of those states have map societies of their own. WMS members are often active in their local societies, which whets their appetite, so they belong to WMS for the Portolan. Florida is unusual because it lacks a map society, but some of its members joined elsewhere and retired to Florida, and it hosts the Miami Map Fair. All told, we have members in 36 states plus the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
WMS also has 37 members beyond the national borders of the United States. The largest contingents are in the United Kingdom and Canada, with eight each. There are five in the Netherlands and four in Malta. Austria, Belgium, Germany, and Italy have two each, and there is one member each in Australia, Croatia, Greece, and South Africa. (These figures do not include institutional members such as universities and national libraries; those will be addressed in the follow-on article.)
WMS members often belong to other map societies as well. By far the most popular of these is the UK-based International Map Collectors Society, to which 83 WMS members (nearly 25%) belong. The Society for the History of Discoveries has 38, and the LoC-affiliated Philip Lee Phillips Society has 30. Regional map societies are also popular: California MS (26), Chicago MS (18), Boston MS (17), New York MS (18), Texas MS (15), Denver-based Rocky Mountain MS (14), Williamsburg VA MS (8), and the North Carolina-based Cumming MS (5). Beyond our shores, we have the International Society for the History of the Map (7), the Brussels Map Circle (7), and the Malta Map Society (4). These figures reflect affiliations listed by WMS members on their census form; actual totals are probably higher, since not all WMS members choose to list them.
Clearly the Washington Map Society is no longer the small group of Washington area enthusiasts who formed in 1979. This evolution has driven some key changes over the years. The first was the establishment of the Portolan in 1984, and its evolution from a newsletter to a first-class periodical of high quality, especially in the last decade or so. Another was the inauguration of its web site in 1996, the first one among map societies, and its refurbishment four years ago. Then came the FaceBook page in 2010 and its revitalization in 2015; it went from 218 members to 397 in CY 2016 and is still growing rapidly. Another effort to reach members beyond DC was the use of crowd-sourcing on Portolan articles of wide interest, e.g., eBay for map collectors, recommendations of books for personal libraries, recommended books on maps for juvenile readers, ICHC after-action reports, and others. The latest change, one with great potential, has been the recently initiated program to video speakers’ presentations and make them accessible to the membership on the WMS website. This is still in the trial phase, but the two which have been posted have been well received. (Next month:  WMS by the Numbers – Part Two: The Portolan in Libraries Around the World.)




The Washington Map Society follows the closing decisions of the Federal Government. If they are closed due to bad weather, our meeting will be canceled. If bad weather develops on the day of our event, and the Government authorizes early release, we will probably still be forced to cancel. (If the Madison Building is closed, there’s not much we can do.) We will attempt to send a blast e-mail in that case. Please check your email before coming to a meeting when bad weather is predicted. You can also check the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) web site at Finally, you can call the OPM status hotline at 202-606-1900.  
A Word of Warning: Predicting snowfall in the DC area is an imperfect science at best.  We have cancelled meetings and then not a single drop of snow fell. That is always disappointing and irritating, but it doesn’t happen very often, and this is still the most workable system we have come up with over time.



“Eratosthenes, the mapmaker who was the first man to accurately measure the size of the Earth, was a librarian.”

Ken Jennings

“Eratosthenes's only tools were sticks, eyes, feet, and brains; plus a zest for experiment. With those tools he correctly deduced the circumference of the Earth, to high precision, with an error of only a few percent. That's pretty good figuring for 2200 years ago.”

Carl Sagan



(Note: For better or worse – probably the latter – all content in Latitudes is the work and wording of editor Bert Johnson, unless specifically noted to be the work of someone else. Bert can be reached at Lay-out and transmission is done by Eliane Dotson, Vice President and Program Chair of WMS.)